I can't even believe we are here! I am three years into my journey back to my roots of self sufficiency. So many things have changed in my life, yet I don't feel much different than when I started this journey. I feel like I have come such a long way, but I still have so much more to learn. I have learned so much in my short time on my family property. My dream for my business has evolved immensely since I began. I have had many more successes this year than failures compared to the last 2 years combined.
The first year I spent more or less cleaning up the house & the yard. It took me about six months to even get the yard to a place that I could attempt to plant. The plan I had in my head changed once I realized some of the things that were in my uncle's "junkyard" weren't going to be able to be removed. In case you are wondering, Harold's car is still here. We were able to remove a van, a smaller boat & a couple small abandoned cars from the yard. We also got rid of the old shed that was back there. Then the process of cleaning the debris from the yard before I successfully turned the truck bed & boat into planters. They have both been extremely successful this year.
Even though the ideas for those changed over the years as well. I originally wanted the truck bed to be a sunflower planter in memory of my grandmother. This year it is full of beautiful pepper plants. I was able to plant sunflowers in the truck the first year & they did grow. Unfortunately, they did not do well in the truck & I was not able to harvest sunflower seed at all. I still plant sunflowers every year dedicated to my grandmother. Last year I don't think the sunflower seeds I planted even made it to the back. I germinate all my seed on the front porch in plastic solo cups. The plants I sell & some of my personal plants stay there in what I affectionately call my porch jungle! My no limit soulja plants go to the back!
My sunflowers, which I successfully grew for the first time this year are planted in pots now. Because it is the end of the summer season they have been harvested & pulled up. I was able to harvest seed from one of my sunflowers this year! Unfortunately, I still don't know which one it was! I learned that I need to be mostly a container farm. It rains a lot here & it sits in my yard making it almost impossible to control the water levels my plants receive out back. I think a lot of gardeners & farmers in Alabama grow in containers because of the rain. With the truck & boat painted, in dedication to the quilters of Gee's Bend I try to match most of my "planters" to them. I haven't been very successful at that, but honestly I don't care as much as I thought I would. I am still very much in love with my space as it changes & evolves.
Then, I wanted other flowers & pollinator attracting plants in the boat originally. The only flowers that work in the boat are moonflowers that are currently in the front of the boat in a little hole, cascading down to the ground. They blossom after the sunsets & make beautiful ornamental flowers. The first year I planted a bunch of random flower seeds all through the boat. Nothing! Not one flower blossomed in the boat the first year. The second year I wasn't planning on doing anything in the boat. I was working with the soil & attempting to fill the boat. Around the middle of the summer season of the second year I transplanted some tomato, cucumber & watermelon plants that I didn't have room for anywhere else into the boat. They did extremely well, except the watermelon didn't bear fruit.
This year, I decided to try again with those fruits & vegetables in the boat with my moonflowers because they did so well last year. Watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers & threw in 1 okra plant throughout the boat & they all did very well. We are now going into the fall/winter seasons so the watermelon have been harvested & uprooted. The cucumbers have been moved to the empty tires I have in my yard & replaced with collards. I have learned that we have a sort of second summer here going into the fall season. It is still warm enough to plant some summer crops, while starting your fall/winter crops. I have also realized I cannot grow collards until fall.
I grew & harvested watermelon for the first time this year. I added & lost a number of medicinal herbs. My veterans mostly were lost. I lost my 2 year old angelica plant, my 3 year old burdock, ashwagandha & stinging nettle plants. I successfully harvested & stored the leaves, berries, aerial parts & roots before they were completely done with their life cycles. I have learned a lot about fertilizing my fruit & vegetable plants & trees to ensure they bear fruit. I made my own soil using paper & cardboard & compost this year. The fertilizer I use is the same one I inadvertently inherited from my grandfather. I use epsom salt & coffee grounds as fertilizer as well. The coffee grounds did an amazing job on my citrus trees this year. I grow fruits & vegetables for my home & family & medicinal herbs & peppers for my business & home & family. I learned that I have to fertilize a lot more than I was doing in the first & second year of I want my plants to best fruit.
One of the most important lessons I have learned this year is honestly letting go. I had to learn to let go of the herbs that I lost. I also had to learn to let go of the herbs I am unable to maintain on my mini herb farm. I cannot grow lavender or rosemary. The first couple years I killed so many lavender plants before I came to the realization that I would have to source my lavender. I only tried a couple rosemary plants. I germinated rosemary from seed this year. We will see how that does before I give up completely on it. I have no issues coming to terms with the fact that there are some things I am just not good at growing.
Luckily, there are certain things that I am very good at growing. I am proud of myself when I do well. I was extremely hard on myself prior to this year when plants died. I now realize it is a natural progression of life sometimes & at times it is my fault when they don't make it. Either way I don't spend too much energy on the losses.
I was very successful at harvesting seed this year for sale, swapping & future years on the farm. I was successful at harvesting roots for medicine from the herb plants I lost this year. I fall more in love with the process everyday I am here doing this. I also will be trying more product with the fruits of my labor this year! I am not as hard on myself when things don't work out the way I planned them. Loss is a part of life & I don't take it as hard as I used to take it when my farm takes an L.
The other very important lesson I have learned is that as long as I keep moving forward with a positive attitude my life, business & family legacy is strengthened. I am grateful to be one of the family members that carries on our family traditions! I am grateful for the gifts I have been granted. The biggest one was being born into the family I was born into. I gained so much knowledge this year. I am excited to see what this next year on the farm holds! Thank you so much for taking this journey with me!